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  • Azadeh Williams

Managing your reputation during COVID-19

We’ve seen a significant amount of media hype escalate around the Coronavirus, leading to panic buying frenzies, finger-pointing and misinformation. The risk to organisations during these moments of pure pandemic panic, is that even the most minor media interview or passing comment, can easily be taken out of context and blown out of proportion. Here’s some practical, quickfire tips your organisation can take in order to manage your brand reputation in the media and mitigate risk during these volatile times.

Silence is deadly

If a journalist approaches anyone in your organisation for a media comment. Do not ignore the request. This can be easily taken by the journalist to indicate a lack of transparency, or that you have something to hide. The last thing you want is for your organisation to be presented in a media story in the following reputation-killer sentence:

“We attempted to contact company XYZ, but they have yet to privde comment.”

Instead, if a journalist approaches you, respond swiftly with something along the lines of:

“Thank you for reaching out. We will escalate your query to the wider team and get back to you. When do you need a response by?”

This buys you some valuable ‘breathing time’ to think carefully around what the official media response will be - and give you adequate time to consult with the wider team, PR advisers, and, where relevant your legal team.

Be extra vigilant monitoring any media mentions of your organisations

There are a number of technology providers that can help you set up automated alerts to notify you or your PR team of any media mentions of your organisation. If you haven’t done this, set it up immediately – and be extra vigilant to monitor these over the coming months. These automated alerts will help you rapidly respond should your organisation be mentioned in association with the Coronavirus in the press, particularly if the media has made a significant factual error that could harm your organisation’s brand reputation.

Get your house in order

Make sure all your internal media crisis policies and plans are updated, and that everyone across your organisation understands how to handle any media request. Nobody within your company should be picking up the phone with the journalist on the other line, and making any remarks, however casual, about the Coronavirus without first consulting the wider Marketing, PR, Communications and Legal teams. Importantly, nobody within your organisation should be commenting on Coronavirus issues in social media on behalf of your company without strict approval, as this would be considered ‘public information’ and can also be used by the media to fuel a particular news story.

Seek professional advice

If you don’t have the internal capabilities to manage media outreach during these times of crisis, seek professional advice. At AZK Media, we believe crisis management is critical for any organisation who is serious about protecting their brand equity. A media crisis can cost your business significant time, money and resources – and the repercussions can be extremely far-reaching.

So don’t let one ‘seemingly innocent phone call’ with a journalist ruin your brand. Take the right precautionary measures, seek specialist advice of media experts, and you can ensure your brand will weather the COVID-19 storm.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

About the Author: Azadeh Williams is the Founder and Managing Director of AZK Media.


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